Happy Whatever Day

Bah, humbug.  Sure I like getting together with family and all that stuff, but it seems to me that people make way too big a deal of the holidays.  I think it’s because of all the commercialization.  And the music.  No holiday has as much music dedicated to it as the current holiday season (which comprises way too many holidays to be simply called christmas, hannukah, kwanzaa, yule, saturnalia, etc…).  It’s annoying, and I look forward to it being over so I can stop hearing about it.

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On my (Social media) Withdrawal of late.

In the wake of the tragic mass shooting in CT last week, I’ve been deliberately staying off all forms of social media, especially Facebook but also this blog and my others as well. I’ve not been answering or reading many emails, or even following comments on this blog, much less doing my own posts. I’ve been definitely escaping more into Anime and Anime discussions than usual; I’ve been avoiding mainstream news and even avoiding my mainstay Lefty political podcasts that I usually agree with on nearly all other issues.

I tried returning to Facebook after only a few days on hiatus, but I also found so many people saying so many stupid things I found it hard to resist correcting them. Even people whom I agreed with in sentiment, when they made a bad or stupid argument, I would call them on it. Everyone’s nerves were and probably still are a little frayed.

I was also depressed thinking about the horror of the CT shooting, and also remembering the Aurora shooting and before that the assassination attempt on Gabby Giffords in AZ.

Depressed, too, because initial reports stated that the shooter in CT was possibly someone with autism or Asperger’s. It seems there was a good deal more wrong with him than that, but in the early days of the media grasping at straws to offer up explanations and fill valuable air time with speculation…let me tell you, it hasn’t felt good these past few days to be someone with Asperger’s who is also a responsible firearms enthusiast and owner. I felt vilified and despised by proxy. I own some of the same models of firearms as those used in these high profile mass shootings. I’ve been weighing selling at least one of them, a multi-shot semiautomatic rifle in .223 caliber; I own it but have never actually used it–it’s still in mint condition. My emotions have been so mixed. I wonder if I should sell it now and at least try to recoup some of my investment before a ban is possibly implemented and would only get a pittance in any sort of future police buy-back scheme. It’s irrational to feel guilt for owning it, but I still kind of do.

I know I would have to drastically change the way I store my firearms if I had children in the house, or an adult son of my own. If I lived with a mentally unstable individual I would owe it to myself and society to keep all of my firearms under lock and key when not on my person, or just sell off all my firearms and make do without. When I lived alone I stored several revolvers within easy reach of my bed, inside my living room coffee table, and kept a shotgun in a bedside rack in “cruiser ready” status; I’ve scaled all that back, living with my parents.

I do want to affirm that Asperger’s alone does NOT make one mentally unstable. Having Asperger’s or other milder forms of autism should not disqualify one from enjoying one’s full 2nd Amendment rights like any other American citizen. An Aspie is perfectly capable of being a responsible citizen in this area. And coincidentally, no, I do not believe the 2nd Amendment extends all the way to nuclear armaments. Small arms only, I’d say. It’s also been my experience that most autistic people are nonviolent and people with very gentle, kind dispositions, and I’d like to think of myself as being that, too. I’m not a threat to anyone. I don’t want to harm anyone. I’ll try to help if I can.

The cry goes up, why does any American need a multi-shot, military grade semiautomatic weapon? On one level, this is an argument from personal ignorance. Just because the person asking this rhetorical question can’t think of a valid reason anyone would “need” such a firearm doesn’t mean a valid reason can’t be articulated. Their failure of imagination shouldn’t ipso facto result in a curtailment of a civil right per se. I can imagine a scenario of someone living in a hurricane-prone area (and with global climate change, more and more areas are becoming hurricane prone) where government services might be strained past capacity temporarily with a resultant breakdown in civil authority, and in such a scenario it might be advantageous to own a multi-shot weapon beyond a simple standard hunting rifle, for the protection of one’s life and property. Or perhaps one could own such weapons but store them in a communal arsenal away from one’s home, checking them out for target practice but returning them to the arsenal when done, but with a clause permitting them to be checked out indefinitely if a disaster area is officially declared, to be returned to the communal arsenal once the emergency has passed and order restored.

This isn’t a political blog and I don’t want to get into a deep policy discussion. But I also can’t speak in this kind of tentative, nuanced way openly in an open social media like Facebook because too many people will immediately attack me on all sides and that kind of hostility is something that makes most Aspies cringe and shy away from.

Perhaps some form of assault weapons ban is a political inevitability in the current climate; if so and I can see the writing on the wall beforehand, I sell at least some of my collection that might be affected by such a ban going into effect; If I am unable to complete the sales in advance of a ban and forced to comply with the ban I will do so. There are measures that could be taken short of a complete and total ban that some gun owners could live with is all I’m saying, if we think outside the box and are creative.

Besides feeling a bit “under siege” as an adult male with Asperger’s who likes and owns firearms, I’ve also been depressed by well meaning fellow liberals on the gun control side spreading misinformation about Aspies “lacking empathy” or “having trouble with empathy”. It’s hurtful and just not true. (thanks again, “Borat’s brother”) My first reaction to the news out of CT was the same as my reaction to 9/11, and probably the same as yours, NT readers, namely “Holy sh*t, that’s horrific!”. But it doesn’t mean I “lack empathy” to note calmly that policy decisions that potentially do damage to a basic civil right in this country made on the basis of raw emotion alone are potentially not a good idea.

I don’t pretend to have any of the answers, but sputtering on about violent video games and movies seems fruitless…research in this area has been and remains inconclusive. To hear some Republicans talk about need to improve mental health care (while slashing the budgets for same in the name of fiscal austerity and defending for-profit insurance companies that routinely decline to cover such care) is bitterly ironic. Perhaps the AWB of the Clinton era will be revived, but remember, Columbine happened while that ban was still in effect. Reviving it is not a cure-all.

I’ve purposely withdrawn from social media such as Facebook for the time being because there only the extremes on both sides are talking loudest and seemingly attacking anyone not 100% in agreement with them while we as a nation wrestle with these difficult questions. I was relieved to be able to at least get some of my thoughts off my chest this week to a sympathetic friend at work at lunch, with the break room mostly empty thanks to people being on vacation and the like. That was a big help.

Motivation

Motivation to do something has been a determining factor in much that I do. When there’s something to be done, usually some kind of work and/or something I don’t prefer doing, I like to know why it needs to be done.

Is this really necessary? Can it wait until later, or does it have to/should it be done now? Does accomplishing such a task or activity have any effect on me? Do I need to do this? Will I benefit from doing whatever task or activity that’s being asked of me, and/or needs to/should be done?

When it comes to doing things, especially things that I don’t want to do, I consider questions like this prior to taking any action. This has been the case for me for quite a long time. Honestly, it makes sense to take such things into account before acting on them. This is why I still procrastinate a lot.

I’m unsure as to whether this is an Aspie trait, or just simply a few ways that I reason things. Knowing that Aspies have very logical minds, it would makes sense for other Aspies to be of like mind with me. At the same time, considering other people in your decision making is important when something affects more than just you. I suppose what I’m saying is that even though it’s good to look out for your own interests, you still need to consider the wants and needs of others.

For one thing, when you do something good for someone else, regardless of whether they asked you to or not, they might then be inclined to do something for you in return at a later time. Don’t always expect this to be the case, as doing a favor for others, while usually nice, doesn’t mean they are obligated to then do something for you. Do good things because they’re good things to do, not (just) for the sake of expecting something from someone else.

Where I used to only do things largely for my own sake, I’ve learned that the world doesn’t revolve around me. At times, it’s good to step out of my comfort zone to do stuff just as much for the benefit of others than for myself. I like being on good terms with people and helping them when I can.

ASAN Statement on Media Reports Regarding Newtown, CT Shooting

Re-posting here; ASAN press release from yesterday.

Link: http://autisticadvocacy.org/2012/12/asan-statement-on-media-reports-regarding-newton-ct-shooting/

Also quoted in full below…

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December 14, 2012

In response to recent media reports that the perpetrator of today’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut may have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum or with a psychiatric disability, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) issued the following statement today:

“Our hearts go out to the victims of today’s shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and their families. Recent media reports have suggested that the perpetrator of this violence, Adam Lanza, may have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, or with another psychiatric disability. In either event, it is imperative that as we mourn the victims of this horrific tragedy that commentators and the media avoid drawing inappropriate and unfounded links between autism or other disabilities and violence. Autistic Americans and individuals with other disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crime than non-disabled people. In fact, people with disabilities of all kinds, including autism, are vastly more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. Should the shooter in today’s shooting prove to in fact be diagnosed on the autism spectrum or with another disability, the millions of Americans with disabilities should be no more implicated in his actions than the non-disabled population is responsible for those of non-disabled shooters.

Today’s violence was the act of an individual. We urge media, government and community leaders to speak out against any effort to spuriously link the Autistic or broader disability community with violent crime. Autistic Americans and other groups of people with disabilities persist in facing discrimination and segregation in school, the workplace and the general community. In this terrible time, our society should not further stigmatize our community. As our great nation has so many times in the past, let us come together to both mourn those killed by acts of heinous murder and defend all parts of our country from the scourge of stigma and prejudice.”

Media inquiries regarding this shooting may be directed to ASAN at info@autisticadvocacy.org.

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Asperger’s and Introversion.

One topic I would like to explore more of in the near future is the intersection of Asperger’s and Introversion. While I do acknowledge that Neurotypical (NT) Introverts do seem to exist (my mom claims to be one, as did one of my previous bad/bully bosses), my sense is that while not all Introverts are Aspies, nearly all Aspies are Introverted, and quite intensely so. I think we feel everything that NT Introverts feel, only dialed WAY WAY up, with much greater intensity.

More than once I’ve read some self-declared “introvert’s manifesto” either online or in print and find I can’t help thinking to myself “undiagnosed Aspie” as I read it. This is probably not true in every case, but in the examples I have read, the thought does cross and re-cross my mind. There is a definite affinity between Asperger’s syndrome and Introversion at the very least, though exactly what the nature of that affinity is remains to be explored and investigated.

Introversion used to be my “go-to” label in my per-diagnosis phase, before I knew I had Asperger’s syndrome. And while it’s not wrong, it is incomplete. It lacks the explanatory power (not to mention ADA protections) that the Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis carries with it. It was the NT/Aspie gulf between my ex-boss and me in North Texas that led to the failure of our working relationship, and not some extrovert/introvert divide as I initially hypothesized but which my ex-boss dis-confirmed during a hearing on my appeals case for unemployment benefits that I ultimately lost.

Brief aside, for those that want to avoid learning the hard way, always make sure to make an employer fire you; DO NOT make my mistake and resign under pressure. You will have a much better chance of winning unemployment benefits if you are terminated against your will. It is very difficult to prove satisfactorily that you have been bullied into resigning like I was. If I had had my diagnosis at that time, I not only would not have resigned, I probably could have pushed back against my boss and demanded reasonable workplace accommodations under ADA, as I was later able to do with my current employer.

It would behoove newly diagnosed Aspies to read books on Introversion that are outside the normal “canon” of ASD literature as there is a lot of cross-over appeal and information that is still resonant and relative to our experience in the NT world. There are some real parallels between the general Introvert challenges navigating a world dominated by Extroverts and the challenges of ASD people facing off with the majority NT world around us. A lot of the Introvert narratives out there will have a familiar ring to many, many Aspies. It is definitely an intersection worth studying in more detail by the experts.

Don’t write NTs off

I’ve heard my fellow aspies disparage neurotypicals as sources of help, but it seems to me that we depend on their assistance to cope with a world dominated by them just as they depend on our amazing abilities to move society forward.  One feature common among many aspies is a lack of “theory of mind” or the realization that not everyone experiences the world as we do.  How would such a person be able to help people who have completely different points of view?  The liaison between aspies and mortals has to be a neurotypical.  Only they have the instinctive empathy that a counselor needs to have in order to translate our uniqueness and indispensability to others, and we definitely need that message delivered if we are to survive and the human race will continue to advance scientifically, artistically, and culturally.

Aspies are Idealistic

There’s a saying in the ASD community that if you’ve met someone with Asperger’s, you know one person with Asperger’s.  The point is to emphasize how, although we share many common general traits, because of the nature of the wide spectrum we are all on, our condition manifests in different ways and thus we are all unique individuals as well.

When it comes to politics, we are all over the map as well.  But I think I can reasonably say that all Aspies are idealists on some level.  We are motivated by a simple,strong (if naive) inner sense of justice.  John Elder Robison’s son, Cubby, is a self-declared Libertarian (and I think a devotee of Ron Paul but I could be mistaken).  In High School, I used to be a self-described moderate Republican who was hawkish on defense issues (and gun rights and pretty pro-death penalty–among the “hot button” issues of the 1980s of my youth).  I probably viewed Ronald Reagan as a kind, grandfatherly figure–a stand-in, of sorts, for my own grandfathers who had both passed away when I was very young.  But I was always an atheist, and always firmly pro-choice and pro-State/Church separation.  Because I remain that way today on those particular stances, I have evolved in my own political views out of necessity and out of a commitment to personal intellectual honesty.

My co-author, Ankh O. Infinitus, strongly declares himself to be an Anarchist.  While we do agree on some aspects of social analysis, I profoundly disagree with Ankh’s conclusions.  But that’s okay.  I do understand where his idealistic impulses come from and had my educational experiences and the books I was exposed to been different, I very well could have been standing in his shoes today. 

My co-author resoman517 is kind-hearted and a gentle human being.  Because of his hairstyle and facial hair when I first met him, he struck me as bearing an uncanny resemblance to Western European iconic representations of Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity.  His personal demeanor is still very gentle and, if he will forgive me, still “Christ-like”, in the idealized concept of that term.  Resoman517 will have to speak for himself as to his political outlook, but what I gather in my reading of his views is that he seems to fall somewhere in between Ankh and myself.  And by “myself”, I mean the myself of 2012, of me today.

A little personal history, for sake of clarification, is perhaps in order, as I alluded to the evolution of my views earlier.  For me, one thing that has always motivated change in me is when I notice rhetoric not living up to reality.  As a young, naive teenage Republican of the 1980s, nothing was more devastating to my ideals than the revelations of the Iran-Contra scandal, which shook me to my core.  I was angry with Oliver North for violating his officer’s oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution.  I was angry with President Reagan for letting such activity occur on his watch.  I also started to have doubts about the conservative perspective of the Vietnam War and the legacy of the 1960s.  I read a factual, balanced Associated Press History of the Vietnam War my junior year of High School and was utterly shocked at how badly I’d been lied to about that war and the U.S. role in it, especially how we subverted the popular will of the people in Vietnam by not supporting an election in 1954 because Ho Chi Minh would most likely have won it.  That galled me to no end.  While I still supported George H.W. Bush in 1988 and sneered at Michael Dukakis, I did have a best friend in High School NJROTC who was a Democrat from Ohio.  It’s sort of like when you have a gay friend it tends to shatter your homophobia (which also actually happened to me but more on that later)…my friend who was a Democrat made it harder for me to demonize them and made me re-think a lot of my views.  But when I went to college, I was already starting to shift.  I was lukewarm on Gulf War 1…I wasn’t knee-jerk anti-war, but I wasn’t rah-rah wave the flag blind patriot idiot either.  I felt it was a grim, dirty business that just needed to get done, that Saddam Hussein cold not be allowed to legitimize his conquest of Kuwait and could not be allowed to threaten the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  It is only years later that I learned that a lot of the hype for that war was based on a pack of lies (Saddam’s troops were NOT massed on the border with Saudi Arabia, which conventional civilian weather satellite operators in the mainstream media knew perfectly well but chose to keep silent and keep this from the American people at the request of the administration).
More important than the problematic nature of Gulf War 1, however, was the RNC of 1992 in my own hometown of Houston, Texas, where Pat Buchanan took to the rostrum and declared Kulturkampf or a “Cultural War”, and where the sitting President himself openly embraced the Religious Right of the day.  As a long time atheist, I felt completely shut out of my own party and recall saying something to the effect of “fuck me, I guess I’m a Democrat now”, and proceeded to vote for William Jefferson Clinton both times; I sat out in 2000, partly due to laziness, partly because I could not decide between Gore & Nader, then resumed voting for Kerry/Edwards in 2004.  I voted for Mr. Obama in the Texas Democratic Primary, but I voted Green Party in the national election.  I voted Obama for re-election in 2012.
But personally I am much further to the political Left these days than most mainstream Democrats.  If we had Instant Runoff Voting, I’d much rather vote for the Socialist Party and the Green Party.  I have lived in Europe (Germany) as an exchange student and I tend to think of myself as more a European Social Democrat (or Democratic Socialist).  Here too, another example of Aspies feeling like they’re from another Planet.  I definitely at times felt more “at home” in Germany, among the Germans, than I ever have back here in the USA since returning from abroad in 1993.  Indeed, I wonder if my Asperger’s would even be identifiable or diagnosable had I been born in Germany instead.  Hans Asperger might not have been able to differentiate me from the general population around him at the time. 

I suspect that in the firearms hobby community (target competition shooters, hunters, general gun enthusiasts) there are many, many undiagnosed Aspies, especially individuals who obsess over the workings of firearms and have impassioned debates online about particular manufacturer’s wares–and I’d wager the majority of those Aspies are probably politically rightward leaning because a large chunk of that sub-cuture (which I have dallied with myself) tends to be.  But in an case my point has been that Aspies, regardless of their political orientation, tend to be motivated by high-minded ideals and a desire to see justice done.

In closing, however, I will opine that if one is somewhere on the Autism spectrum, it is probably against one’s self-interest and against the interests of the ASD community to vote for any Right-of-center parties generally.  Such parties will tend to reduce or slash any benefits to disabled people, and that includes ASD people.  Asperger’s is sometimes called an “invisible” disability because one can seldom tell just by looking who is Aspie and who is not.